Brahmacharya is an ancient term that has the meaning “divine use of energy”. It is a principle of the universe and biology that biological creatures have a finite energy source, and they take in energy from the environment and are in a constant fluxing process of energetic exchange with the environment. This energy exchange process has certain principles that can be useful to observe.
When a man abstains from the usual sexualized media and all forms of sexuality, there is an energetic process that is discovered for the first time. They see that the mind becomes more and more silent, pliant, and energetic. There is a sense of inner calm that develops when a person abstains from sexual thoughts and media, or more generally typical mainstream media. They notice that there is a change in perception that goes along with the abstinence, and they also notice that other cravings and aversions are lessened. This seems to be a root desire that if managed makes other desires arising from it, more manageable, or cut off at the source entirely.
The spiritual traditions of our ancestors have placed a high importance on renunciation, and in particular renunciation in regard to sexual activity. There are spiritual benefits of renunciation, and Brahmacharya is a type of renunciation- but only at first, before a person gains insight from it. When a person has some degree of samadhi, they see that Brahmacharya leads to a state of spiritual bliss that is well worth the trade. They see that their state of mind is related to their renunciation and any thoughts in their mind are clearly related to sensual objects. They learn that this attitude of renunciation really becomes like a sort of super-power. A practitioner can access subtle states of consciousness and awareness that they were not keen on before.
With this higher degree of awareness and energy present in the mind, the mind’s faculties are ideally poised to attain insight. The mental state that we want to cultivate is a relaxed, alert state of mind without the hindrances, and with the factors of awakening. And anything that we can do to bring those factors into balance will be beneficial.
Why renounce anything?
Renunciation can be viewed through the lens of prayer. In our renunciation we are giving a sacrifice to the Divine process that we are a part of, and we are acknowledging that we are part of that process. This honorific notion and sacrifice is a key part of realizing the interrelatedness and non-self insights. We can get many spiritual gains by keeping our moral and behavior around sex reserved. It is a plain fact that people who don’t have romantic partners do not deal with the typical relationship problems. They do not suffer on behalf of the relationship, and they do not suffer on account of pursuing a relationship and searching for a sexual mate. They see the energetic costs and the opportunity costs associated with the typical things people do to find partners.
There are certain men who have chosen to renounce romantic partnerships altogether. This is nothing to be ashamed of, and to give validity to this notion it should be elaborated. Some men, upon discovering the teachings of Brahmacharya for the first time perhaps haven’t had much success with women and they want to stop bashing themselves and suffering on account of it. These are men of self-esteem to recognize their efforts toward self-actualization are more truly meaningful to them than pursuing a relationship with a woman. These men may have other aspirations and they feel constrained by other people’s expectations of who they should be. It’s also possible that certain men wronged women in the past and personally have reaped the karmic effects of that and learned from it, and have also experienced the karmic benefits of renunciation and see no comparison. They perhaps may want to atone for those things or want to compensate somehow for some perceived shortcoming. Whatever the dynamic, if we have an intention to nourish our spiritual practice through our renunciation, it is the right intention. We are making a sacrifice for the Divine will, or God’s will, if you will, and we know that spiritual rewards are as clear as day and much better than chasing a relationship. This is only one perspective and way of viewing Brahmacharya.
The best attitude to have when considering a period of renunciation at this level is to have a non-committal, experimental attitude to it. Try to commit to one week without allowing any sexual thoughts or media to linger in the mind. After the week, you may feel that you could easily try another week. So you do that, and you notice that there are striking changes in how you see yourself and you are developing a sense of inner strength and fortitude. These are the fruits of a good energy cultivation practice, and these are what we aim to maximize. Anyone trying renunciation will find that we fail, try again, fail, try again, get better, fail, try again, etc. It’s because we’re human beings and it’s ok. You just want to move in the direction with your intention of being a part of the divine or the universe. You want to let the universe vibrate through your being unimpeded.
Brahmachayra can also be a useful concept in the context of a committed long term relationship.
Typically, people in committed long term relationships with a partner will have gotten through the initial honeymoon stages of the relationship and they find that there is a need to nourish their sexual drives and make things more polar. Men who are appraised of the energetic benefits and the hormonal effects of retention, can learn to use these principles to re-connect to their wives or girlfriends.
Since Brahmacharya as a practice is about divine or heavenly uses of energy, we can view sex as a divine expression and thus we should take it very seriously. Often people get carried away in lust and desire when they have sex, and Brahmacharya can help to revitalize a healthy sexual dynamic between partners. The great thing is that many of the benefits of abstinence, for the man, are automatic and simply charge up the longer one abstains. But, the attitude of renunciation is what is important. A true Brahmacharya will not entertain any sexual thoughts and has a high standard for the degree of thought-replacement and sense restraint required. Eventually, it becomes effortless because the attachment that bound up the sense of self to the sex is dropped, and the person can see the clear benefit and sees no reason to stop. This is a wonderful development that may sound scary to a person in a relationship- to which I would say, just skip the Brahmacharya. But the system may not be as effective without some effort toward temporary renunciation of some kind.
Thought replacement, drive levels, and introductory energy transmutation
A basic energetic principle observed across spiritual traditions is the principle of energy and its relation to physical practices. Brahmacharya can be considered a physical practice because it involves an exercise having to do with the activities of the body. The mind can be observed to operate at two basic levels, an active state, where there is an active trail of fabrication occurring registering as conscious experience, or a resting state where the mind is not pursuing objects of the senses and is awaiting the next important object. The mental activity associated with these thoughts, quick impulses and mind moments of strain and craving, that all takes energy and it is much more efficient to not have as much mental fabrication going on. We learn the process of dependent origination in depth in other chapters, and we see that each of these fabrications carries an inherent strain due to the fact of perception itself. We aim to decrease the fabricating acitivites of the mind, while revealing more about the present moment experience and its fabrication process in real time. When we energetically optimize with brahmacharya and other energy cultivation methods, this energy is available to be transmuted.
Principles of energy Transmutation
An experience is ideally experienced with the seven factors of awakening present, or if they are not present, some of the energetic charge from the incoming hindrance or suffering is converted to the charge of the seven factors and thus driving the mind toward awakening. The way this is maximized is to fully experience the object, open-heartedly, and let the energy simply move through you. If you do this with every emotionally charged moment, widening the shoulders and actually physically receiving the unpleasant stimulus – then the energy can move through your being unimpeded, and some of the charge can be “caught” at the last moment, as the sensation is disappearing, and this energy is left without a biological basis- it’s out in empty space somewhere. Embracing the experience to be transmuted fully allows the practitioner the most efficient energy transfer, as any muscle tension tends to impede the flow of energy considerably. As such, we develop energy in the standing meditation practice. These practice all constructively interfere and magnify. The synchonous effects of each practice lead to a direct storehouse of energy. This energy must be respected – and if we wish to chanrge up the energy we should first cover absolute ground rules for any energy work:
- The energy of the universe is the same as the energy in you, and the net amount can change. Thus, your being is capable of being at a net higher energy expenditure per hour (power) or lower power. This is directly observable in normal circadian rythums, and so we should also assume the net capacitance of the human is also variable and this implies we can take in energy from the universe, and we can operate at a higher or lower level. We can take this energy and funnel it into the seven factors of awakening. As we can assume that the energy expenditure is related to the net amount of energy in the human, we can take charge from our environment and charge it into our being.
- This energy flows into the being and it can also flow out. The intention and visualization of the practitioner has a large influence on the flow of energy. It is very useful to be able to let energy flow out of the being into the environment. To do so you simply intend for it to be so, and you synchonize your visualization of what the energy looks like, with the breath or something that directs the energy into the ground:
- Stand on bare earth with bare feet and imagine the energy leaving your body and going into the earth.
- Deep breaths with an intention to direct the prana out the feet and toes.
- Walking with bare feet and focusing on the soles of one’s feet.
- Eat a high carb or heavy meal and lay on the floor with a large area of the body in contact with the floor
- Do above with bare ground if possible
- Sit in lying down position if dullness is not a persistent distraction
This basic knowledge of the flow of energy into and out of the being is essential to understand and gain further realizations and insights, and to begin to use the energy collected toward the development of awakening factors. With that in place, we can move onto energy transmutation.